Important series of meetings!

The ConnectME Authority will be conducting a series of community forums to receive public comment regarding broadband issues in Maine as part of the creation of a triennial strategic plan. Citizens, business owners, municipal representatives and others are being encouraged to participate. Four forums will be held at:

  • Wed., 9/16, from 5:00PM to 7:00PM in Abromson Hall at the University of Southern Maine (USM) in Portland
  • Mon., 9/21, from 5:00PM to 7:00PM at the Wells Conference Center at the University of Maine at Orono (UMO)
  • Wed., 9/23, from 2:00PM to 4:00PM, and 5:00PM to 7:00PM at the Campus Center of the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI)
  • Wed., 9/30, from 5:00PM to 7:00PM in the Jewett Hall Auditorium of the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA)
High speed ahead: South Portland joins Rockport in upgrading its fiber optic network

High speed ahead: South Portland joins Rockport in upgrading its fiber optic network

By James McCarthy, MaineBiz

Chris Dumais at South Portland City Hall

Chris Dumais at South Portland City Hall. Photo by Tim Greenway, MaineBiz.

Bob O’Brien, one of the owners of the Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance Co. in South Portland, readily admits an insurance company don’t necessarily require the kind of bandwidth that the local tel

evision production company Lone Wolf Media might need for uploading videos to clients ranging from National Geographic to “Nova.”

Yet, because he also serves on the city’s economic development committee, O’Brien says the recent installation of a fiber optic one-gigabit-per-second Internet network in his neighborhood is great news, even if the benefits might prove modest for an insurance company.

“We’re definitely looking forward to improved speed and greater reliability,” he says. “I really do see it as an economic development tool. Right now, we’re only the second town in Maine to do this. It makes us stand out. It’s great that a lot of folks at City Hall thought outside of the box to make this happen.”

One of those out-of-the-box thinkers is Chris Dumais, the city’s director of information technology, who credits City Manager James Gailey and former Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings . . .

Read the full article at MaineBiz.biz

Productive legislative session is a good start

Positive steps part of multi-year effort to make Maine’s economy competitive

(Augusta, Maine) Although Maine was rocked by national publicity last year exposing the state’s scarce access to highly reliable and very high-speed Internet, an alliance of businesses and organizations says the state has made fairly good progress correcting course in the current legislative session.

The Maine Broadband Coalition (MBC) is supporting LD 465, LD 1063 and LD 1185, all three of which are still alive in Augusta. LD 465 would help ensure that Maine’s internet backbone, the 3 Ring Binder, is fully utilized. It removes a state surcharge that falls disproportionately on rural areas. The Maine House of Representatives passed the bill this morning and sent it on to the Senate. LD 1185 would provide $6 million in funding to local broadband planning and community broadband investment through the ConnectME Authority.

MBC members say LD 1063 is particularly important. The was bill passed unanimously by the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, and is a key stepping stone in a long process of building state-of-the-art communications infrastructure. The bill now waits approval by the full legislature and Governor Paul LePage.

“This is the first overhaul of the state legislation supporting broadband since 2006,” said Carla Dickstein, a founding member of MBC. “It puts into place mechanisms that promote strategic planning, measurable goals and objectives, with public input and annual reporting required. And for the first time, it allows the state to support local broadband planning efforts. If we’re going to bring world-class Internet to Maine, we have to be very wise about how we proceed, and this bill gets us started in the right direction.”

Dickstein said passing L.D. 1063, “An Act To Promote Community Broadband Planning and Strengthen Economic Opportunity throughout Maine,” would go a long way toward correcting Maine’s path.

“Since we’re a rural state, private companies send us to the back of the line for cutting edge Internet infrastructure. If the full legislature sends the bill to the governor and he signs it into law, that’ll be a strong indication that state leaders recognize Maine’s economic future depends on stimulating build-out of critically needed infrastructure,” Dickstein said.

Maine municipalities are growing frustrated with large incumbent telecommunications providers who do not want to invest in rural areas, but who also try to tell legislators that Maine “doesn’t need” high-speed Internet. Impatient with that combination, municipalities are taking matters into their own hands. In March, the City of Sanford released a request for proposals to establish a public-private partnership to expand Sanford’s broadband infrastructure by building a city-owned fiber optic network.

On Saturday, voters in the town of Islesboro overwhelmingly approved beginning the process of making “FTTH,” or “Fiber To The Home, available to every island resident. In the last year, both Rockport and South Portland announced that they would install Internet networks capable of speeds up to 1 gigabit-per-second, both upload and download. Bangor, Sanford and Portland have also expressed interest in the “municipal broadband” concept.

“A selectman in Islesboro told the Portland Press Herald on Saturday that his town is ‘a community intent on keeping up with the world, and maybe getting ahead of the world,’” Dickstein said. “I think what we’re seeing across Maine, and in Augusta, is that communities are recognizing how high the stakes actually are for Maine’s economy. Cutting-edge Internet is no luxury, it’s a crucial necessity.”

Maine Broadband Coalition (MBC) is an informal federation of public policy professionals, educational institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals who are concerned about Maine’s economic future. For more information visit www.MaineBroadbandCoalition.org.

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GWI and South Portland hit key milestone in public/private partnership

Chris Dumais presents fiber map.

Chris Dumais presents a map of Phase 1 of South Portland’s high speed fiber network at last fall’s press conference.

(South Portland, Maine) – The City of South Portland announced this morning that it is ready for Internet services provider GWI to hand over access to a fiber-optic, gigabit-per-second Internet network that can serve both business and residential customers within the City.

“I’ve notified our previous fiber optic provider that we’re ready to switch over the City’s connections, and I expect that process will be finished within a couple of weeks,” said Chris Dumais, South Portland’s Director of Information Technology. “Not only are we facilitating a network that can offer upload and download speeds of up to one gigabit, but we will also be saving the City $2,100 a month in operational costs. That’s about a half million in savings during the life of our agreement with GWI.”

Entering into a public-private partnership with GWI (www.gwi.net), the winning bidder in response a Request For Proposals (RFP), the City has begun a three-phase project that will bring approximately four miles of optical fiber, and ultra high-speed Internet service, to a significant portion of South Portland. The first phase connected Maine’s “3-Ring Binder” to the Mill Creek, Knightville Ocean Avenue, Highland Avenue and Evans Avenue corridors; the second phase, whose funding is pending, will connect the James Baka Drive, Western Avenue, Westbrook Street and Wescott Road corridors; and a third phase, ready to start now, will expand the network even farther down Highland Avenue, to the new Municipal Services Facility. The City is contemplating additional phases, as funding becomes available.

GWI reported today that it is in the middle of contracting and scheduling customer hook-ups to the new service. Fletcher Kittredge, the company’s founder and CEO, said South Portland’s willingness to think like an entrepreneur was crucial to the successful launch. “Unlike the system we built in Rockport, which the town owns, South Portland city decided to lease,” Kittredge said. “They’re excited about this new infrastructure, because it sets South Portland apart and gives the city a crucial advantage in attracting and retaining businesses that need to move large amounts of data.

“South Portland’s leaders have demonstrated that nimble, cost-effective and creative solutions are possible when your goal is to provide world-class Internet service. I suspect that this model will be examined closely by many other towns and cities in Maine.”

Dumais said South Portland’s project is in harmony with its Comprehensive Plan. The City signed a contract with GWI for $150,000 that will secure connection of city facilities, with a long-term lease. Although GWI owns the network, it is an “open network,” meaning other Internet provider will have fair access to the fiber, a condition that both the City and GWI view as an important feature to promote competition. GWI will share a portion of revenues it obtains from use of the network with the City, and has invested $70,000 to connect to its own network and make the network ready for residential connections.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Chris Dumais, S. Portland IT Director, cdumais@southportland.org, 207-767-7681

NY-TIMES EDITORIAL: Look to the States on Broadband

April 20, 2015. Read full editorial HERE.

EXCERPT: “Having access to high-speed connections is important because work, education and entertainment are increasingly moving online. But the average speed at which Americans connect to the Internet is a relatively slow 11.5 megabits per second, according to a recent report by Akamai, a technology company. The Federal Communications Commission recently defined broadband as connections that have download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second, which it says is necessary for members of a hypothetical family to participate in an online class, download files and stream a movie at the same time. The world’s best networks, including a few in the United States, offer speeds as fast as 1 gigabit per second — 40 times the capacity of a 25-megabit connection. (A megabit is a million bits — the zeros and ones that make up digital information. A gigabit is a billion bits.)”

Important Press Conference, April 21, 2015

Mason/Gideon press conference features fast growing alliance

Maine Broadband Coalition supporting LD 1063

(Augusta, Maine) A collection of Maine businesses, municipalities and non-profit organizations has grown from about a dozen members to almost 80 in the two weeks since its formation.

And the Maine Broadband Coalition (MBC) will turn out tomorrow at an 11:15 a.m. press conference to support L.D. 1063, broadband legislation introduced by Maine state representative Sara Gideon and state senator Garrett Mason.

WHAT:  Press conference in support of LD 1063 ahead of its public hearing before the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee:

WHEN:  11:15 a.m., Tuesday, April 21.

WHERE: Atrium of the Maine State Cultural Building (Maine State Museum, Maine State Library, Maine State Archives), 230 State Street, Augusta.

WHO:

Maine Broadband Coalition (MBC) announced its formation on April 6. The coalition is an informal federation of public policy professionals, educational institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals who care deeply about Maine’s economic future. For more information visit www.MaineBroadbandCoalition.org.

LINKS:

New York Times editorial, “Look to the States on Broadband,” http://nyti.ms/1OzcdC6

Broadband Communities Magazine, “Bad Broadband Equals Low Population Growth,” http://bit.ly/1GbqWRJ

Bangor Daily News, “Rockport, Rockland join forces for broadband expansion,” http://bit.ly/1blKyIL

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McCabe introduces bill to expand rural broadband

Editor’s Note: Maine Broadband Coalition is publishing this press release as a courtesy to Maine state representative Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan.

April 16, 2015

McCabe introduces bill to expand rural broadband

Greater Internet access would benefit Maine’s small businesses

AUGUSTA – House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, introduced a measure Tuesday to allow Maine communities to form local public authorities to provide broadband to rural parts of Maine.

Maine Broadband Coalition

Maine state representative Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan

“Many Internet providers are not willing to extend service to rural parts of Maine,” said McCabe. “By allowing Maine communities to form their own local authorities, they can provide their residents with access to high-speed broadband.”

Maine currently has a 1,100-mile statewide fiber optic network called the Three Ring Binder, which residents and businesses can access if carriers and service providers build “off-ramps” to this high-speed broadband network.

McCabe’s bill allows a municipality, groups of municipalities and counties to create corporate entities or authorities, similar to water and sewer districts, with the ability to issue bonds for the purpose of constructing broadband infrastructure to provide regional broadband service.  Such an authority would provide the “last mile” of broadband to rural homes and business using the fees from that service to pay for the needed infrastructure.

The bill also states that the expansion of broadband using optical fiber is an authorized expense under the state universal service fund administered by the Public Utilities Commission, which would provide further funds to such authorities to extend broadband service to Maine residents.

The bill amends Maine’s goals for broadband policy by requiring the ConnectME Authority to define “broadband” as having at least the same speed as the current Federal Communications Commission standard. It would also create a standard providing that upload and download speeds are the same. This addition will help to ensure that Maine broadband speeds are competitive with the rest of the country.

“There are many small businesses and farmers in rural Maine that would greatly benefit from access to broadband,” McCabe said. “Too many businesses struggle to compete because they do not have Internet that is fast enough to run their business online. We need to level the playing field and extend broadband to all parts of Maine.”

According to Google Director of Marketing Scott Levitan, 97 percent of American consumers search online for goods and services.  At the same time, 59 percent of small businesses in Maine do not have a website.

According to the Website BroadbandNow, which publishes federal data on broadband access, nearly 200,000 Maine residents don’t have access to high-speed Internet access or even access of any kind.

The bill, LD 1323, will receive a public hearing before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in the coming weeks.

McCabe is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents Skowhegan and part of Madison.

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